Tag Archives: law

niqab isn’t the issue; racism is

posted by missmsian

This week, the highest court in Ontario will rule on whether a woman should be allowed to wear her niqab while testifying in her sex assault case.

The lawyer asking for the removal of the niqab argues that “face-to-face confrontation with witnesses is vital to an effective cross-examination.”

Would a woman be asked to remove her cross necklace before testifying?

I see the eye rolling. “It’s an unfair comparison ,” some may say.

No; it’s perfectly fair. The niqab and cross necklace are both worn for religious reasons. Neither is more/less threatening or more/less conspicuous than the other. (Whether something is “conspicuous” rarely has to do with its size and visibility, but more often to do with how the viewer judges it. If Christianity offended me and I took the cross necklace as a representation of Christianity, even a tiny pendant tucked under a shirt, barely glimpsed by me, would seem extremely conspicuous.)

“But one covers most of the face and the other just hangs from the neck.”

What is with this sick, Orientalist obsession with unveiling, exposing, “seeing”? The woman in the case would be testifying in front of the court. That means everyone in the courtroom would see her. Maybe they wouldn’t see her bra straps and neck tattoos, but one would hope a lawyer wouldn’t have to in order to make a fair assessment of her testimony.

To borrow from the arguments this woman’s lawyer makes: what if the lawyer or judge were visually impaired? Are people who are visually impaired incapable of making accurate judgements because they don’t see facial expressions?

What about witnesses who are nervous and exhibit all the apparently ‘telltale’ signs of lying–shifty eyes, etc.–while trying to tell the truth?

Here’s another one the woman’s lawyer didn’t mention: what about protection for victims of sex assault?

There are rare cases where victims are allowed to testify from behind a screen–usually when the victim is a child, I think.

Why isn’t this sort of protection an option for all victims? Is there no recognition that it could be re-traumatizing to make a victim look at the assailant?

By demanding that the woman remove her niqab, the lawyer is implying that she would be unbelievable otherwise–calling her character into question before her testimony even begins.

Three male superiors will be making a precedent-setting ruling. Sex assault is already an under-reported crime. Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund lawyer Susan Chapman has said, “It’s no coincidence that this is a sexual assault case. This is the last case in the world where the court should be ordering a woman, over her objection, to remove her clothing.”

I hope they keep this in mind.

And for those who haven’t been paying attention to the proposed Bill 94 because it ostensibly affects only Quebec, think again. Depending on the ruling in this case, something similar for Ontario might not be far behind.

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dispatches from san fran: why azns should care about what’s happening in arizona

posted by kltw

So I’ve been sitting here for the past two hours thinking of a clever way to introduce myself to readers, as this is the first time I’ve ever written for a blog.  Instead of something dramatic or witty or anything extraordinary, I’m just going to give the basics to save myself another late night.  I’m a Chinese-Canadian hanging out in California this summer, doing work with working class, low-income Chinese immigrants in the San Francisco Chinatown.

When missmsian approached me to write for the invazn, I thought about the plethora of topics that I had accumulated over the years, including pop culture, politics, race/racism, sexuality…etc.  However two recent events helped me narrow down my topic to one of great importance right now; the topic being the bullshit that’s happening in Arizona.

For those of you who aren’t yet aware, Arizona has had a long history of being one of the most bigoted, hateful, and racist states in the union.  With an impressive history highlighted by notable events such as the 1912 enactment of legislation that denied the vote to any persons unable to “read the Constitution of the U.S. in the English language”** , or the opposition to the recognition of Martin Luther King Day, or HB2281, passed just few weeks ago, that bans ethnic studies in schools.  These are just a sample of Arizona efforts to single-handedly deny rights to people of colour.

The one piece of legislation that I will focus on is SB1070, which gives Arizona police the authority to question anyone they feel to be “reasonably suspicious” of entering the country illegally.  Furthermore, if said person is unable to produce the proper documentation proving their status, they will be detained or deported.  Needless to say, this is a terrible time to be in Arizona as a person of colour.  This law is designed specifically to fight the so-called blight of “illegal immigration”; what it actually does is criminalize people for being brown.

So why should Chinese people care about this? After all, all of us exist in the racial hierarchy as the “model minority”, where we don’t make trouble and assimilate perfectly into mainstream society. Right?

WRONG…The fact that a model minority exists hurts both our own community as well as other communities of colour (perhaps the topic for a future post?).  A lot of the opinions coming out of the Chinese community here have mostly painted a bleak picture about our understanding of the plight of undocumented peoples, and in this case, people in the Latino community.

Not only has the reaction to SB1070 been indifferent at best, supportive at worst, Chinese folks have actually talked about going to Arizona to take over the jobs that are being vacated by deported workers!  This type of mentality has demonstrated the utter inability (and sometimes refusal) to connect the dots between the treatment of different communities of colour by the state throughout history.  Chinese people need to look no further than this past century to see the denial of our right to opportunity and existence through the Chinese Exclusion Acts.

I had the opportunity to see the result of this kind of legislation first hand on my visit to Angel Island; at the time, it was the immigration centre (read: immigration detention facility) on the West coast and the “Guardian of the Western Gate”. Carvings of Chinese poems can be seen on every wall, decrying the conditions of imprisonment and expressing the pain of isolation and emotional suffering.

The spirit of the Chinese Exclusion Act lives on to this day, in the form of SB1070.

The same rhetoric could heard then and now: talking about immigrants taking American (read: white people) jobs, about corrupting American values, about taking over.

The same kind of work was done by immigrants then and now: working in the underground economy, for less than minimum wage, in sweatshop conditions.

The same kind of consequences borne by the immigrant communities then are the same ones that are experienced today: broken families, living in fear, continually oppressed.

This is why we need to stand up against this bullshit, because in this cycle, who knows when our own communities will become the targets once again.  I hope everyone takes some time to get to know the history of injustice done to each of our own communities in order to better appreciate the experiences of immigrants in Arizona right now.  For more information about SB1070 and the struggles in Arizona, you can check out Alto Arizona.

They first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Pastor Martin Niemoller

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